Some of the worst times in my marriage are when my husband and I seem to lose all sense of effective communication - getting defensive, talking in circles, rolling our eyes, speaking in a hurtful tone of voice, and altogether feeling as though we are creeping closer and closer to the point of no return. But the more we learn to communicate in a positive and constructive way, the fewer and farther between those abysmal moments become. Working as a team to develop healthy communication habits will bring you and your husband closer together and help you to fulfill the real purpose of marriage - for two people to become one, rather than for one person to be working against the other.
Say "thank you" at least once every day. For Valentine's Day, I wrote a whole list of things I was thankful for in my husband's card. Not only did he appreciate the gesture, it also gave me some much-needed perspective to step back and look with gratitude at all he does for me on a daily basis. There is often so much to be grateful for in a marriage that goes "un-thanked." We grow accustomed to certain treatment and take favors for granted. Even if it's something that you think your husband should be doing, thank him for it. It will mean a lot to him, and it will probably motivate him to continue happily contributing just as much to your marriage and your household.
Apologize right away. To err is human, so you're bound to make mistakes now and again. Sometimes it's easy to try to justify these mistakes or to hold onto our anger so long that the eventual apology seems to have passed its expiration date. The truth is, you probably know yourself and your husband well enough to realize the very moment you've done or said something that warrants an apology. Nine times out of ten, my husband and I apologize to each other quickly, but the times that we don't, it feels like a cancer is growing inside me. Get in the habit of apologizing right away. You might need to follow up the apology by asking for some time to cool off, but by acknowledging your mistake and asking for forgiveness right away, you can at least cool off with a clear conscience, knowing you have made peace with your husband.
Avoid "you" statements. It can be so easy to place blame on my husband when things aren't going exactly right. You never do the dishes. You speak to me disrespectfully. While these statements may be true, phrasing them that way only serves to place my husband on the defensive. Phrase points of contention as "I" statements, rather than "you" statements. I would really appreciate some help with the dishes. I feel sad when you speak in that tone of voice. Turning the statement back on yourself will show your husband you're trying to solve problems as a team rather than placing the blame on him.
Give and receive criticism graciously. Your husband as your partner in life should not only tell you when you look beautiful or cooked the perfect meal. He should also tell you when you're acting in an unbecoming manner or have broccoli between your teeth. You should be able to trust your husband to help you learn and grow, and you should be able to do the same for him. Work together to learn to give criticism constructively, discretely, and in a loving tone. In the same manner, learn to receive criticism without getting offended. Remember that all human beings are a work in progress, and we are all on our journey to becoming the best version of ourselves. Married couples get to make the journey together and help each other get there - embrace it!
Monitor your nonverbal communication. Speaking of criticism... my husband says that I wear all my emotions on my sleeve. I tell him he doesn't realize how often he speaks in a condescending tone. It's not always what we say - it's how we say it. Work together with your husband to monitor your nonverbal communication. If you often use a tone of voice or wear a facial expression that sends a hurtful message to your husband, ask him to point out when it happens, and then have enough humility to acknowledge your mistake and work to improve. But just remember - it's a two-way street! Lovingly work with your husband to alter any of his bad nonverbal habits, as well.
More from this author:
Little White Lies: When Dishonesty Might Be the Best Policy
Six Essentials Not to Neglect During Your First Year of Marriage
How to End an Argument In Your Relationship